Love Island. ‘After a long day, I like to snuggle up with a dose of vacuous reality TV and enjoy the parade of the young, the wealthy and the bikini-clad.’
Shows aimed at young women are subject to a level of scrutiny and derision that their male equivalents escape. But I refuse to feel guilty about my TV pleasures
There are many important anniversaries in 2017. The centennial of the Russian revolution. The 150th anniversary of the publication of Das Kapital. I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t remind you of another important date: Saturday 14 October is the 10th anniversary of the start of the reality TV show Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Yes, they’ve been on air for a whole decade. Seems like longer doesn’t it?
I know. The Kardashians in the Guardian – ban this sick filth. But I have tried on several occasions to write about this sort of reality TV and this is only the second time I have succeeded, so think of all the articles you haven’t had to read.
I did break through this summer when I suggested that Love Island could be less homogeneously heterosexual. That was OK, because it became acceptable to watch Love Island this year, perhaps because of the presence of contestant Camilla Thurlow, a person who had read an actual book, but who knows.
Despite such bold leaps forward, there is still no great love for the Kardashians among tastemakers. Most people who consider themselves in possession of more than a few brain cells are firmly in the camp of not wanting to know anything about Kim, her family members, or her large arse. As Jane Garvey said following a short item about the anniversary on Woman’s Hour: “I know not everyone thinks we should be discussing the Kardashians on Radio 4 … well, we just have.”
And really, why not? I love KUWTK, as it’s also helpfully known. It’s comedy gold for one thing. It has spawned a thousand memes, the most enduring of which is a shot of the matriarch of the family, Kris Jenner, wielding a camera and saying, “Kim, you’re doing amazing, sweetie”, as her daughter writhes around during a nude photoshoot for Playboy. Delightful. There’s plenty of drama, too. Kendall Jenner’s hot take on her tone-deaf Pepsi ad? “If I knew this was going to be the outcome I would have never done something like this.” Glad she’s cleared that up.
But I also enjoy the programme because, above all, the Kardashians are a supportive, close-knit family who spend a lot of time together. It reminds me of how much I love my own family, who sadly live across the pond too, but in less glamorous Virginia. All of these are valid reasons for enjoying the programme, and never once have I felt that KUWTK, or anything I enjoy, is a “guilty pleasure” – how can any pleasure be guilty?
Snobbery is everywhere. Popular films, TV programmes, music, books (don’t get me started on so-called chick lit) – large portions of all these genres are consigned to the trash heap; the bland refined pap of non-edifying culture. This attitude is summed up by the kind reader who commented on my Love Island piece: “Maybe you should quit watching all that crap and read or watch something substantial so you can write more meaningful columns.” Well, obviously, no. Who gets to decide what is “meaningful” and what is a guilty pleasure, or worse, “crap”? Men. The middle-aged. Oxbridge graduates. BBC executives. (On that note, I have tried to watch Doctor Foster and I simply can’t get through it. It may have high production values, but it’s nonsense on stilts. Also, Dr Foster clearly isn’t a very good doctor.)
This cultural snobbery is firmly aimed at women, specifically young women. Anything Kardashian-related, any Katie Price project, Made in Chelsea, The Only Way is Essex and the like are enjoyed by young women in their droves. Why are we saying their choices for entertainment are less valid than men’s? I am aware of all the arguments against these types of shows – whether or not the women in them are good role models, for example. Luckily I’m in my 40s, possessed of self-confidence and self-esteem, and I don’t give a crap. More to the point, though, this level of scrutiny simply isn’t levelled against shows that are aimed mostly at men. My fiance is partial to Danny Dyer’s Deadliest Men, for example, and I don’t see reams written about what a terrible influence Dyer is on men’s values. Although he may be, of course.
Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes work is tedious and difficult; often my brain hurts. Sure, I recently enjoyed Toni Erdmann, a zippy 162–minute German study of generational conflict and globalism, and sometimes I’ll throw on some Ustvolskaya, but after a long day, more often than not, I like to snuggle up with a dose of vacuous reality TV and enjoy the parade of the young, the wealthy and the bikini-clad. Televisual Valium. And that is in no way something to feel guilty about.
And if you still think my love for the Kardashians is unacceptable, wait untiI I tell you about Teen Mom 2.